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New York Appeals Court Holds Guidelines On Office-Based Surgery Are Null And Void


HLD, v. 31, n. 4 (April 2003)

New York Appeals Court Holds Guidelines On Office-Based Surgery Are Null And Void

The New York Commissioner of Health and others (defendants) created an ad hoc Committee on Quality Assurance in Office-based Surgery to establish standards of care for surgeries performed in private offices. The committee issued "The Clinical Guidelines for Office-based Surgery" (Guidelines) which established a code of conduct for procedures in private offices of healthcare practitioners. The New York State Association of Nurse Anesthetists (plaintiff) a non-profit corporation representing certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) brought an action against defendants in a New York trial court seeking a declaration that the Guidelines were null and void. Defendants moved to dismiss the action, and the court converted the motion to a motion for summary judgment and granted summary judgment to plaintiff on the grounds that defendants lacked the authority to issue the Guidelines. The court issued a permanent injunction barring defendants from enforcing the Guidelines, and defendants appealed.

The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Department, affirmed the trial court's judgment. As an initial matter, the appeals court had to determine if plaintiff had established that it had standing by demonstrating that the Guidelines had a harmful effect on at least one member of the organization, and that the interests plaintiff claimed to protect were important to the purpose of the organization. Defendants argued that plaintiff had failed to show that any individual member had standing to bring the action. To establish standing, said the appeals court, a party must show it suffered an "injury in fact" and the injury was within the zone of interest that is protected by statute. Finding flawed defendants' argument that plaintiff's members' economic injuries did not fall within the scope of interests to be protected by the Guidelines, the appeals court found plaintiff challenged the Guidelines' infringement on the ability of its members to pursue their profession pursuant to N.Y. Educ. Law �� 6901 and 6902. The appeals court determined that plaintiff's members were in a class of protected individuals under the Education Law and the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the state and federal constitutions, and had stated an injury sufficient to confer standing. Rejecting defendants' argument that the Guidelines were recommendations rather than regulations, the appeals court held that there was sufficient evidence to support the conclusion that defendants were clearly intending to create a uniform code of conduct. Agreeing with the lower court that defendants had acted contrary to an express legislative mandate, the appeals court held that the Guidelines were illegal. Accordingly, the appeals court affirmed the lower court's judgment that the Guidelines were null and void.

New York State Ass'n of Nurse Anesthetists v. Novello, No. 91448, 2003 WL 31957888 (N.Y. App. Div. Jan. 23, 2003) (3 pages).

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